When a team is mired in a nine-game losing streak it's not only the head coach, but also the assistants, that end up feeling the heat. That's the way it is for Buccaneers offensive coordinator Greg Olson. Frustrated fans have been nearly as vocal for Olson’s dismissal as they have for head coach Raheem Morris'.
Where the blame falls for the 21st ranked offense and a 4-11 season is debatable but Olson keeps plugging along and thinks Tampa Bay will be better next season despite the regression of key contributors like Mike Williams, LeGarrette Blount and particularly Josh Freeman.
“He [Freeman] is a tremendous talent,” Olson said. “You've got to understand certainly the numbers this year indicate that it's not the season that any of us expected of him or thought that he would produce this year. I will say that he had one year and offseason with this particular system. It obviously hurt the entire team and it did every team in the NFL not having an offseason, but I think with this particular group of players they will get better and he will get better. I think it will be a great learning opportunity for him to go back and have an offseason and look at the mistakes that were made throughout the season. He's a tremendous talent [and] a tremendous worker. He will learn from this season. He will get better.”
While Freeman has been banged up this year (thumb sprain, thumb cut and shoulder) Olson didn’t want to necessarily use that as an excuse. He did indicate it may have factored in, though.
“Not overall, but then again it’s the NFL and everyone deals with an injury. But he has had his share,” Olson said. “He had his share obviously this year with the thumb at first [and] then the shoulder. That’s part of the NFL and you know he played through it. Obviously he is very tough. He had the broken thumb a year ago as his first year as a starter. He has dealt with pain and he will learn to deal with the injuries. He will get better. I don’t have any doubts that Josh Freeman with be the quarterback here in the future for a long time.”
Despite the problems Freeman has had, Olson doesn’t think it will affect the Bucs signal-caller's confidence.
“Certainly you would love to have him going through his entire career having success from day one, but it doesn’t work that way," Olson said. "He's been a guy that went through some years at Kansas State that weren’t so good, but as I said when he came in here and you, talk to the guys in the locker room. He has that 'it' factor.
“He has that confidence and he knows what he is going to need to work on. I think he sees the problems and has had a chance even when we come in on Mondays after games. He has a chance to look at it and realize, 'Gosh, this is what needs to be done [and] that’s what needs to be done.' So I just think because of his temperament as a player he is going to be fine. Again it will be a great learning [experience] for him in the offseason. I don’t see his confidence being shaken. I think he's going to be fine.”
The running back situation has been a topic of conversation by many in the media along with fans since the start of training camp. Now with Blount struggling to hold onto the football this year, it continues to be a hot-button issue and a position that will need to be addressed in the offseason.
Olson spoke about the unit's recent struggles.
“We are doing some of that right now and trying again to build upon the strengths of the players that we do have on the field,” Olson said. [Mossis] Madu is more of a shifty kind of guy so we were able to do some of those things with him, but we still have a plan with LeGarrette Blount. Certainly part of it is starting faster, which we have not done. We need to start fast so we can allow him to stay in the game and stay with the game plan and score points. Again, he is a power back [and] strong back and he gets better as the game gets going. So it's important that we start fast and get a lead on people and continue to let him carry the load of the rushes.”